Pastor to Pastor: 4 Ways to Develop Your Preaching Voice

My name is Dave, I am a natural introvert who absolutely loves to preach.

Sounds odd doesn’t it?

My craft and my demeanor don’t come natural; both have been (and still are) in a stage of development. Don’t get me wrong, I still have my reserved or withdrawn tendencies. But the nature of my vocation has drawn me out of the safety of my solitude to develop a side of me I never thought I could access.

Stepping into ministry, I had very little experience with preaching. My youth pastor granted me a couple of opportunities in youth group that stretched me beyond belief. In bible college, I preached a few times in homiletic class. Apparently I didn’t do so well as I had a couple of friends pull me aside and tell me that preaching wasn’t my “gift” and I would have “difficultly finding a position.”

In fact, after my very first Sunday morning sermon EVER, a lady approached me in the lobby right after and said, “Can you put in the church bulletin when the pastor is out of the pulpit so I can go somewhere else and actually get fed?” Awesome.

So, all in all, I was very “green” and in need of some shaping.

I remember in the first few months of ministry, my dad handed me a sermon series on cassette tapes from T.D. Jakes. I found myself listening to them while I’d set up for youth group. I cannot remember what the series was on, I only remember what it did in me. Regardless of what you think about Bishop Jakes, his style and presentation ignited my heart. I felt like the Holy Spirit spoke something to me that I’ll never forget:

My “preaching voice” was more than what I have been handed but a gift that needs be developed.

I’m working on a blog/message about pastoral evolution as, I believe, us pastors do not stop learning and growing. We should be able to look back and see patterns of growth and development. God has granted us positions and opportunities and with what God has given, we are called to be stewards. Stewards don’t bury the gift; they do something the gift. We do not sit on it, we manage and develop it. And, I believe, preaching is no exception.

You need develop your “preaching voice.” I’m not necessarily talking about having a certain tone or fluctuation (even though, that’s certainly part of it). I speak of growing and honing;  learning and shifting. I’m not the same preacher I was 20 years ago (thank the Lord). I’m also not the same preacher I was 10 years ago. God has used seasons and examples to help “evolve” the mentality, passion, and presentation of how I proclaim the good news of Jesus.

So today, I thought I’d share how God’s has (and is still) helping me grow my “preaching voice.” My hopes is that you’d allow the voice you have to grow and develop in the hands of the Holy Spirit.

Don’t be T.D.
News flash, I’m not T.D. Jakes. Though imitation (I hear) is the highest form of flattery, I’m not called to be someone else; I’m called to be David Barringer. There’s a difference between “gleaning” and “being.” My insecurities can get the best of me and think, “if that works for him, maybe it’ll work for me.” Don’t allow your insecurities to rob you of the joy of proclaiming hope in Jesus because you are not [insert favorite preacher]. Do not allow envy of how someone preaches diminish (1) what God has blessed you with and (2) what He wants to develop in you. But that brings me to…

Don’t ignore T.D.
As much as I need to be “me,” I can glean from others as to hone my “voice.” You cannot get the attitude that you can’t listen to others so you can be yourself. As preachers, I think one of the best ways to fine-tune your voice is to listen to a variety of preaching voices in a variety of preaching genres.

I listen to a variety of others who’ve helps show me ways to grow in a variety of ways that have honed my “preaching voice.”

For passion in preaching, I’ve gleaned from Steven Furtick.
For raw authenticity, I’ve gleaned from Perry Noble (but I can’t say the raw things he says…I’d get fired).
For connecting scripture to every-day life, Lysa TerKeurst.
For getting people to laugh, Jim Gaffigan (yes I know he’s not a “preacher”).
For developing words and phrases to help people remember the message, Andy Stanley is great.
For conversational preaching, Levi Lusko is tremendous.
For story telling, Judah Smith is a favorite.

I could make a longer list of preachers with the likes of Beth Moore, Rob Ketterling, Jud Wilhite, Chris Hodges, Craig Groeschel, Mark Batterson and so many more. I’ll learn from anyone. Exposure is important and in the age of podcasts and video casts, there is literally no excuse why we can expose ourselves to a variety of voices to challenge and grow our own. Which leads me to…

The conjoined twins: Presentation and Preparation
When I get hear a presentation, I think about preparation. Presenting the message and how it’s prepared work hand-in-hand. As your preaching voice develops, so will the way you prepare. Why does that change? When you position yourself to be stretched in the “what” it directly challenges the “how.” Some areas that will go through some “evolution” will be:

Locations you study and locations you write (may not be the same).
Times you study and times you write (I’m a morning person, afternoons are for meetings).
Places and times to seek the face of God for direction (I prefer walks in solitude).
How to collect information (tools, journals, files in the cloud, etc.)
Where you collect the information from (books, blogs, preachers, etc).
Forecasting future messages (learning to plan ahead).

If I’m not preparing well, I can’t present well. And as much as these things are all a part of my week, I’ve held them loosely in my hands as to allow the Holy Spirit to shift them and change them a bit as to grow me. Which, lastly, leads me to…

Be overly sensitive
I’m not talking about being overly sensitive emotionally, but to be extremely sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit.  My desire is not to chase “change” and, in the same breath, not to fight “change.” I want to be constantly open to that which the Spirit of God wants to do in and through me and nothing is off-limits to Him.  There was an old chorus I grew up on:

Change me Lord, into your image
Rearrange me Lord, cause me to grow
From glory to glory
Change me Lord I pray
Into your image more each day.

I cannot expect change in others I, myself, am not open to. And as I am open to the Holy Spirit, He helps guide the growth I need and the development of the message in my heart. I’ve watched Him use moments to fine-tune my life. I’ve seen the Holy Spirit open my eyes to life experiences to be used as sermon illustrations. The Holy Spirit is faithful and is always speaking. It’s just a matter of whether we will listen and obey.

There’s probably more to go into, but this is where I will stop. As I’ve said before, I’m not the same preacher I was 20 years ago or even 10 years ago and, I hope, to not be the same preacher after this next decade of ministry.

What are your influences? What has helped you grow your “preaching voice”?

Love you all. Praying over you as you to “proclaim the Message with intensity; keep on your watch. Challenge, warn, and urge your people. Don’t ever quit. Just keep it simple.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

BTW: My new book of my blogs came out. Click on the image to order yours!!

 

Pastor to Pastor: Getting and Gathering Sermon Ideas

Prepping for sermons…well, I love prepping (said in the voice of Stanley from “The Office” from the pretzel day episode).

I love preaching. Declaring the love of Christ to people is such an amazing privilege that I do not take lightly. It’s why I go full-tilt on my preaching preparation. My wife will tell you, my mind NEVER turns off of preaching prep. It’s good in the sense of having my radar up constantly to get and gather material. The negative, I struggle with turning it off as to enjoy myself. Thus, the reason why I needed to develop tactics and tools to help me in my message and sermon series prep.

Over the past couple years, I’ve been contacted about my practical approach to this, specifically, how I accumulate (get and gather) ideas and information.  Usually, the end of those conversations end with a request for a blog with the list of them.

I’ve found out that many ministers regulate research and ideas to office time.  Or, some will get ideas and don’t know how to organize them.  I want to make this as simple and practical as possible. I don’t consider myself a “specialist” on the subject, as it’s taken me years to work out what fits me and my personality type. Most of these tactics and tools require very little to no investment and they fit the type of person I am.  

But the key: These tactics and tools work for me. And that’s what you’ve got to discover for you. This is not an exhaustive list as you may uncover other ways/tactics. If you have something to add to the list…PLEASE SHARE!

First: Where I get ideas: 

  • Time in the Word
    • It’s incredibly difficult to hear a word for your congregation if you’re not in the Word yourself. It’s also important to note that if the Word isn’t challenging you, it’s probably not going to challenge your church community. Personal time in your bible can produce ideas, messages, and series but it shouldn’t be the goal. The goal is always a greater revelation of Christ and His Kingdom.
  •  Prayer
    • I know the scripture in James 1:19 is in the context of anger, but there is some beautiful wisdom for us as preachers. We should be “slow to speak and quick to listen.” We ought to be very quick to position our minds and heart to quiet ourselves and listen for the Spirit of the Lord to speak to our hearts. Which leads to my next thought…
  • Books
    • You’re heard it said, “leaders are readers.” I think it’s true.  But I have to admit, it’s not natural for me at all. I’m slow at it. I don’t comprehend at rates others do so it takes me time to take in what the author is saying. But it’s out of positioning myself with a variety of authors and subjects that the Lord has stirred ideas and thoughts. 
  • Running/walking
    • If you have time to pray, you’ve got time to walk. I start working well before the office hours begin. Sometime in the afternoon, I like to take a break from studies and counseling to go for a run. The exercise helps both clearing out the mind as well as providing necessary exercise for the body. I listen to podcasts of preachers for part of my run. I spend another part just praying over people. It may sound like multitasking, but it’s what works for me. 
    • NOTE: Pastors, your congregation needs you to get exercise, eat right, and be healthy. “Burning out for Jesus” doesn’t burn with Holy Spirit fire to give God glory, it burns with pride and makes people look at you. I’m not promoting a size or shape but promoting healthy habits that lead to a healthy life (see my post “Slave to the Scale“). 
  • Podcasts
    • I LOVE getting my creativity stretched by other preachers. Each preacher stretches me with both content and delivery. And the more I can get outside of my little Kfirst sphere and my denominational comfort zone, the more I can glean from the Kingdom of God and be a better man and preacher for it. 
  • Social media/websites/blogs
    • From a church/pastoral blog to Instagram accounts, I follow a variety of people, groups, and churches. We serve a creative God who, through His church, has amazing creativity. Don’t be afraid to see not just what others are doing but how they’re shaping the Message. Check out their approaches. See their promotional strategy.  Remember: We are not in competition with others. WE ARE ON THE SAME TEAM AND PART A HIS KINGDOM. We are in a Kingdom of collaboration. Look at others. What you want, get permission to use. Let people in the Kingdom be iron sharpening iron
    • For example, a graphic artist wrote a blog about God leading us from Point A to Point B. I felt the Holy Spirit lead me to write down the idea.  A few years later, the Lord started stirring me toward a series on how God led Israel from captivity (Point A to the Promised Land (Point B).
      A2B Slide
      Series A2B

      The series was called “A2B.” One blog title turned into a series of messages and people encountered Christ because of it.  I thought he should know about it as well as to encourage him.

  • Living life (fun, vacation, struggles, etc.)
    • I don’t enjoy time with my family to get something to share, but my engagement in life naturally gives opportunity to connect the spiritual to the practical. So many times, Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God is like…” He connected the Kingdom to things in the culture that people were familiar with. These metaphors or illustrations helped bridge the gap between mystery and understanding. Enjoy life. Engage with your families in life. Serve in your community. And the more you live, the more stories you’ll develop. You’ll no longer be depending upon some book of “101 Great Sermon Illustrations.” Why? You’re developing them right now. People want to connect to the human being on the stage. And the best way, I believe is for them to hear about how you are still working, growing, and yes, sometimes struggling.  
    • NOTE: Never share a family story without permission. I don’t share about my wife or the children unless they give me permission. 

Second: How do I gather and develop ideas?

My whiteboard – $20 (for the hardware)

 

 

 

I literally found a piece of plexiglass in a closet in a church. Paint the side facing the wall and add a couple decorative bolts and you’ve got a whiteboard. As I’m thinking, I sketch out thoughts. I’ll write out scriptures in one color and work out ideas with other colors. It helps me look at the main thought/point and work out of it while being able to go back and reference it.

My schedule – $0

My calendar has a weekly flow to it (even if I’m not preaching on Sunday).  From planned time to study to taking a break from books to go for a run to pray over the message, I do my best to keep a schedule.  Monday mornings at the coffeehouse is about getting my mind off of the previous Sunday and fixed upon the next message. Tuesday and Wednesday mornings are about crafting the message. Saturday morning is about prayer and focus.

Something I’ve built into my schedule is “future” message time.

 

 

 

 

On Monday afternoons, I spend time in prayer over the preaching calendar. It’s at this time I spend time seeking and listening to God regarding the upcoming 4-6 months of the preaching calendar. That leads me to…

My “future series” calendar – $30 chalkboard from Hobby Lobby; $6 for the chalk markers

 

 

 

This might be the most expensive piece in my office. I use the colored tape to mark out how the series flow (start and stop). It helps give me an overview as to how the year looks. Some of the pieces have the names of the series. Some are blank. Usually, I have locked in the direction of the next 3-4 series as it helps me in my prep.

My Google File – Free (for 15GB)

 

 

 

 

Having a filing system at my fingertips is huge. From laptop, iPad, or iPhone, any idea or thought can go right into the appropriate file. I always add a hashtag onto the name of the current series as it keeps the file at the top (as seen in the pic as #Playlist).  The next series is always in this located on this screen as it’s there for easy access (for some reason, the next series “Pivot Point” was cut off of the graphic). Obviously, with the filename “Future Series and Messages,” it shows the catchall location for any ideas that come from prayer and research.

My Journal – $3-5

 

 

 

 

Sometimes you’ve got to close the computer and physically write things down. I can’t carry my Whiteboard in my backpack, so this is my way to sketch thoughts and connecting thoughts. Sometimes I’ll draw out an idea of graphics. Other times, I’ll write the heart of the message/series and, than underneath it, try out some titles.

My Wall – $5.99 per large sheet of foam-board (creates roughly 12 sermon plates)

 

 

 

The “wall” reminds me of the series we have covered with our congregation. Part of it helps me steward what we’ve studied as a congregation. The very practical side: We want to steward the graphics of the past series as to make sure we don’t have the same look and feel of other series. I remember something I heard on Food Network: People eat with their eyes first. I’ve taken that to proclaiming the Word. Graphics are not primary as  Jesus is primary. But a name and graphic can trigger interest as well as remind someone of the Word that was proclaimed.  

My “Preaching” Bible – $2.99 for the package of red pens 

 

 

 

 

This may seem small, but it’s a big deal to me. Since pastoring at Kfirst, I started with a fresh bible and started underlining my main preaching texts and dating them in red. It helps me be a steward of the Word in regards to what I’m bringing to our congregation. As ideas and creativity come to me, I like to get into the Word and see if and when I as a pastor have visited that passage and when that happened.

This may see like much, but over the past 7 years of being the Lead Pastor, it’s the practical way that I approach the getting, gathering, and the developing of messages and series information/creativity. The success of this blog is that you will discover, perhaps, a new way to help steward this amazing privilege that we preachers have in delivering the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

I love you all.  I’m praying that our creative God will give you creativity beyond what you could ask for or imagine. 

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Social-Media Church: 8 Reasons why you should encourage your congregation to post while you preach.

I’m a proponent of social-media.  Like it or not, it’s here and we have an opportunity to utilize it as an amazing tool for our preaching. The words “Hear, O Israel” in Deuteronomy 6:4 tells us that God wanted his instructions to have the maximum reach.  He didn’t want anyone to miss out on what he was saying.  Why can’t we have bigger vision for our sermons by being strategic by encouraging social-media during the message? 

Here’s a few thoughts on why you should be okay with people on their phones/tablets during the message (and yes, I know I’m using Deuteronomy to support social-media): 

1. People remember more when they write/type something down.  People tend to process more of what they write down (I’ve heard people remember 85% more of they hear by writing it down).  Therefore, while they’re thumbs are frantically flying across their screen, they’re focusing on what was said.  And yes I recognize they could be missing the next few words of the message.  But think about this: We’re upping the percentage of retention. Why wouldn’t we ask them to tweet/post?  Why did God tell the Israelites to write down the greatest commandment in Deuteronomy 6? He didn’t want them to EVER forget it.  Why wouldn’t we want the congregation to have the same approach?

2. Social-media networks are VERY frequented locations. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” God told Israel, when it came to the greatest commandment, to write it down in the place where their family and their guests passed by every day.    People have to process what said while they’re thumbs are frantically flying across their screen.

3. Our memory isn’t as good as we think (at least for most of us).  We only have so much room to work and everything battles for space in our minds. I think of when people ask me to say a “happy birthday” or “happy anniversary” from the pulpit.  It’s a crapshoot with a mind that is so tuned into a sermon. I forget those requests all too often.  Often, I tweet/post and forget. It’s not till there’s been a favorite, retweet, like, share, etc. that gives me a reminder of what I posted.  God had Israel “bind them as a sign on your hand” as if to say, what ever you do with your hands, you’re going to get a reminder of what I said.

4. Reminds me, as the preacher, to keep things simpler. You hear it every Thanksgiving.  “I’m not sure what I ate but it was good.” If we give people too much info, they might feel fed, but they won’t know what they ate because there was so much.

I will put my main points into twitter frequently.  It’s not to necessarily post them.  It’s to see if they fit into 144 characters (with the hashtag). Long sermons might sound really spiritual, but they’re not more effective.  Having short, memorable (tweet-able) statements have a greater capacity for sticking in a persons memory as they walk away from the service to retain, talk about, and live out. How can you help people remember so that they “shall be on your heart” (*their heart)? Make them tweet-able.

For some help, Preaching Rocket does an excellent job constantly doing blogs and video-casts about developing “Sticky Statements.”

5. Gives a place to revisit. This is a bit like #2.  As a teenager, I started taking sermon notes. Part of it was to stay awake (it’s okay to admit). The other side was to re-read and retain.  More often than not, the bulletin cover was accidentally lost, thrown away, or left in my pocket and gone through the wash.  Encouraging posting/tweeting gives an easily accessible place to revisit over and over to get that one or two main points of a message. (Unless you’re like my wife and post EVERYTHING from a message.) Writing them “on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” was a place to revisit over and over.

6. Social-media, like it or not, is what our younger generations use to communicate to each other. Part of me says, I’d rather have them in church tweeting and listening than sitting at home tweeting and not here.  The other side says, give them something to tweet about. I give my kids permission to tweet during the service.  90% of the time it’s about the message.  The other 10% is this:

Deuteronomy 6:7 says, “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” To a generation who, literally, tweets/posts while they sit in the house, walk by the way, etc…why not give them something to tweet about? Even better, mom and dad, why not talk with them about what they tweet after the service.  Take the message to the next step with them. 

7. Make it fun and interactive. Some people make church anything but fun.  We’ve challenged people to do selfies during congregational greeting, pictures of their families sitting in the same row, and groupies of the people who sit around them.  It’s fun.  But behind the fun is getting people to engage with others around them.  I’ll Instagram from the front row shots of missionaries speaking or videos of the worship team. People will post weird things I say.  It keeps it light and fun and, again, more engaging for people. 

8. Keeps the conversation going. When you encourage people to post, where do their posts go? On the Facebook wall and Twitter feed (not to forget Instagram and Snapchat).  I see it every Sunday.  People from the congregation start interacting with each other on the fun and the serious stuff.  Even better,  people who do not attend church start engaging in the points.  Think about it: a 40 minute (ish) message goes on longer (and perhaps more affective) because of social-media and a pastor’s careful heart to make things “tweet-able.”  Use hashtags to help meld together the posts and you’ve got yourself a social-media conversation that can go on all week.  Again, the words “Hear, O Israel” in Deuteronomy 6:4 tells us that God wanted his instructions to reach everyone.  Opening up the conversation that you began on Sunday to the entire social-media network world is a great (and free) way to reach people you will never see and/or interact with.  

I’m a preacher who loves to preach.  I’m also a preacher who always wants to be better at my craft.  If God has given you any gift/ability, then you are called to be a steward of that gift.  Sometimes being a steward is stepping back to take a new look at what you have (or what you are doing). Perhaps if worked hard to give better quality and less quantity mixed with more engagement, we’ll have better effectiveness with our craft to our communities and beyond.  Don’t stop growing in this.  Don’t stop learning.  Don’t stop letting God stretch you in proclaiming the Gospel.  

Preach the Word.  Use words.  Use tweets.  Use pics. 

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

 

Series Preaching: 5 Reasons I choose to preach in series.

I recognize that this blog won’t apply to a lot of people.  But I have a tremendous heart for pastors.  Also, I know that everyone has their preference in preaching styles whether you are the one delivering the message or you are the listener. I’m not writing to proclaim that my style and/or approach is the best.  But over the past few months, this topic has been asked of me over coffee, text, and social media.  So I thought I’d put out a simple blog together that would share my heart to the approach that I’ve taken with proclaiming the Good News.

Why do I preach in series…because it…  

1. …prevents the “Buffet Effect.” People walk away from the table saying, “I don’t know what I ate but it was good.”  Just my opinion, but I feel this is a travesty to preaching.  We gorge our congregations on so much information with hour+ long sermons.  We give people SO MUCH info that they don’t know what to do with it.  At thanksgiving, the massive meal makes me want to go take a nap.  I’m afraid our long-winded sermons have the same effect.  Old-school peeps walk away feeling great because we just “had church.”  In reality, we are giving so much information that it becomes difficult to digest.  Nobody wants to move after Thanksgiving.  Preaching should move us to response. My preaching philosophy: give smaller portions as to make sure the word is received, understood, digested, and able to facilitate growth.

2. …helps identify the “veins” that run through scripture.  I love the word.  It is a part of my daily life.  I’m always astounded to see the variety of topics and thoughts carried throughout the entire narrative of scripture.  It’s the method of “series” that can open the eyes of an individual to not just hear about it on Sunday but disciple him/her to read their scripture in the same way.

For example, I’m very passionate about the table practice of Jesus.  To read about those welcomed at His table will transform you and your approach to people. It’s my hope that after preaching about “The Table” (which I’ve done twice), that every time people would see the word “table” in scripture, they’d reflect upon what is being done/accomplished at the table they’re reading about.  2 Samuel 9, David’s heart was to honor his friend Jonathan by reaching out to Mephibosheth.  Where did David place him at?  The king’s table like on of the king’s sons. The table is a place of restoration, kindness, and hope.  Just like the table of Jesus.

3. …brings singularity of focus. This is very similar to #1 but with a bit of a difference.  It helps us long-winded pastors to break the message down to a palatable size.  The additional thing I’d add to it is it helps you take the time to really dive into the nitty-gritty of what the Lord has laid on your heart.  Before “series preaching,” I’d walk away from message bummed I didn’t spend more time on Point #2 or Point #5.  Instead of preaching 4 point messages, I can preach a 4 message series and really bring to focus the things that the Holy Spirit has laid on my heart.

4. …is a chance to make the Word practical. It’s not that I couldn’t do that before.  It’s just that I had so much info that the practics got lost in all the information.  If our people don’t know how to live it, then we are missing the mark.  Series open up the congregation to “come and see” as well as “go and do.”  Series give me the chance to really talk about how what is being talked about “in here” looks “out there.”

5. …it opens up the door for discipleship. So many churches struggle with discipleship.  Perhaps one of the biggest reasons is because pastors think that discipleship is accomplished by an hour+ long sermon.  Think of the variety of generations of people who come out to a service from a multiplicity of backgrounds, with varied spiritual depths.  It’s a challenge enough to speak to everybody, let alone think that we can completely disciples everyone in the room.  I won’t say that levels of discipleship don’t happen.  But your Sunday AM (or Saturday PM), can’t be your sole discipleship time.  Series can really be a plus to your discipleship communities (small groups, one-on-one discipleship, etc) by giving them a focal point to go deeper.  If the series is on evangelism, your discipleship communities can take the message/series to a deeper place through conversation, community study, and coffee (which I think is always a necessary part of discipleship).

Again, it’s not about twisting your arm to do what fits me.  This is my answer to the question that’s ben asked and it’s the method that has worked for me as a pastor.  It’s what I enjoy.  BUT…I remember what Rick Warren tweeted out about 5 years ago:

Anyone that us unwilling to break their series to deal with a church issue is a slave to their method.

We are servants of Christ and not a method.  We proclaim Him and His Kingdom and not our empire.

In whatever method you use, proclaim Jesus with passion and conviction and watch Him change lives.

Thanks for letting me ramble…